Atlanta joined the NFC South rivals, the Saints and Panthers, along with the Browns as teams who have met with Watson.
As this all goes down, fans have wondered over the last 48 hours what the Falcons will do about longtime quarterback Matt Ryan––or if he even knew about Atlanta’s plan to pursue Watson.
According to NFL insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, the Falcons informed Ryan a week ago that they were going after Watson.
The story was different for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
***UPDATED at 4:42 PM ET***
It turns out that Ryan did not know about Atlanta pursing Watson, according to his sister-in-law, Maggie Marshall Ryan, who responded to Schefter’s report via Twitter:
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Falcons ‘Focused’ on Matt Ryan’s Succession Plan
For 14 seasons, Matt Ryan has played a major key in leading the Falcons, making it difficult to imagine that, one day, Ryan will no longer be the centerpiece.
“There is a transition, we all go through it in life,” Blank said. “Age does have its effect over time. Matt keeps himself in great condition and is anxious to keep playing. I think if his performance is at the level it has to be, we will be fine.
“But, he’s not going to beat Father Time … So at some point, Matt will recognize it, we will recognize there has to be a transition.”
Ryan, 36, finished the 2021 season completing 3,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. While he’s no longer in his “prime” those numbers show that he’s still competing at a high level. Nonetheless, his time will come to an end and the Falcons must be prepared for when it does.
“In every organization, whether it be a corporate organization or a football team, you have to figure out what a succession plan looks like. So, (the front office is) all focused on that question, including Matt.”
The Falcons passed on top-10 QB prospects Justin Fields and Mac Jones last year. Now they will have, at best, top-30 QB prospects (per ESPN’s Scouts Inc.) in Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral to choose from this year, which naturally leaves them even more interested in Watson.
Ryan Remains Optimistic
As for Ryan, he wants to stay a Falcon, or at least that’s what he said at the end of the 2021 season.
“I want to be here,” Ryan said during the team’s final post-game press conference on January 9, 2022. “I believe in this team. The coaching staff, I think, did a great job. I really feel fortunate to have been here for as long as I have. But I’m optimistic. I really am.
“I want to be here,” Ryan said. “I feel good about this group of guys. This coaching staff. Everybody. The direction that it’s going. I really think that we’re going to make improvements this offseason, continue to grow as a team and be better than we were this year.”
The Falcons have also been in talks about restructuring Ryan’s contract, although nothing has been made official and it looks like it won’t until Watson is off of the table.
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